The digital transformation of corporate legal departments and -more broadly- of legal firms (law practices, notaries, etc.) is promising: elimination of time-consuming and repetitive tasks, quicker capitalization, greater negotiating power, alternative management of trusted third parties, etc.
Bridging the gap between the intended changes and their implementation can sometimes prove challenging
So far, legal departments have initiated their digital transformation in tree ways:
The first consists in consolidating activities into legal topics, since the legal profession is generally organised by area of expertise: corporate law, IP law, contract law, etc. Such approach, which appears to be driven by internal efficiency requirements, has been the most popular for the last 10 years. Tools are modernized and help automate the underlying processes.
A different approach is that of prioritizing performance to better respond to today’s growing requirement for speedier and more complex legal services delivery. The idea is to stop listening exclusively to the point of view of lawyers, and to start taking on board the views of internal clients and other stakeholders. This is a much more collaborative approach championing a more intelligent access to legal information.
In other instances, the process is accompanied by digital training provided by the corporation, with proactive policies making it mandatory to cover certain key legal disciplines and providing the recommended tools. This modern vision is driving all the professions towards a new work culture. A significant challenge for the future.
Whichever the approach, the presence of supporting measures clarifying the purpose of the transformation, as well as practical examples of its implementation, is of the essence.”
What are the most common issues that may prevent innovation success?
There are 3 main obstacles to the deployment of digital projects in early 2020.
- An extremely conservative attitude towards digital which has led to it not being sufficiently associated with the transformation process in lawyers’ working practices.
- The booming number of innovative solutions available on the market, with added difficulty in choice and comparison: when one solution is chosen, internal procedures generally hamper or complicate their trial or full-scale deployment.
- A cultural barrier linked to the lawyer’s DNA, a huge topic which may be summarized as a strong attachment to the written word (and word processors), and the wrong assumption that digital technology is often too intrusive
Do all the corporations and corporate legal departments have the ability to innovate?
If by innovating you mean finding practical solutions to major performance issues, then there is no reason for corporate legal departments not to innovate. The problem is that the conversation around digital is often approached from the wrong angle. Is it possible to densify the time used on implementation tasks, and to use big data to refine the benchmarks of all decision making, thus providing additional analysis as well as manager and director coaching? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Saving time in one area means you should be able to spend more of it in other areas.
How can one identify the key sectors capable of offering significant transformation potential to Legal Departments?
During a recent conference of internal lawyers, the chairman of a CAC40-listed corporation said: “to turn digital into an opportunity for the legal function, one needs to understand data: how to format it, how to cross-reference it with other data and exploit it. For this to happen, lawyers will need to undertake much sharing, tool testing and – eventually – practice spreading should the trials prove successful. From this perspective, the lawyer needs to think like an entrepreneur”. He nailed it!
Share your own experience with other jurists our next webinar on March 31st, 2020
Along with the Cercle Montesquieu, we organize a webinar to share experiences and the findings of a study conducted by Bengs with 20 legal departments of large corporate or public bodies.
This will be the opportunity to describe into more details the different strategies implemented by the largest legal departments in order to achieve their digital transformation, as well as to explore in which way the “lawyer-entrepreneur” is an essential prerequisite for the achievement of this new goal.